Friday, August 21, 2009

Of course!

I’ve been hoping for a free moment to do laundry for several days now; I finally have the time, but it’s deluging again outside, for the first time in about a week, so laundry is a bad plan. Even when I dry clothes inside, the ridiculous amounts of moisture in the air make it difficult.

And the moisture is pretty ridiculous. It doesn’t bother me too much, and I’m pretty proud of that. It’s not worse than a bad day in Georgia. But every day is like that, because there is water, water, everywhere. So, while I can handle it, I don’t know how to live with it.

I just found out how often we are supposed to do things like air out the futon. I’m glad someone told me, because I would have just let it sit there. Allowing movement of air is essential around here, where water and insects collect in every unopened corner.

After the last great rains, spiders build me some nice screens over the windows that had none. This is actually kind of nice, because there are less other bugs around when spiders are on guard. The spiders in this town are also very on the ball. I left my bike at the BOE building for my orientation day in Kobe. By the time I got back to it in the evening, at least three spiders had constructed webs in the basket and under the seat.

I’ve been unexpectedly busy these last couple of days, only at home for short spells and sleeping. Thursday night, I got to co-teach my first volunteer adult English class with Lee. There were only three students present, one advanced and two beginner, but they seemed to enjoy my photos. My introduction to them lasted at least a good half hour, which was way more than I’d planned. Since it was my first time working with the adult class, Lee let me take the advanced “group”.. and since there was only one person, I just had conversation practice with him.

My time at work has become more active as well. At first, I would spend a lot of time reading materials from the previous JETs, and the handbooks and other materials given to me at various orientations. Because of this, I was quite familiar with the way of things by the time I got to visit my elementary schools. Recently, though, I discovered the four bulletin boards that are “English boards” within the middle school, so I’ve begun creating stuff to put up on them. It’s a challenge for me, because I’m trying to make them picture-centric with fewer words, although my mind tends more toward verbose.

Other than the boards and the ‘newspaper’ I’m going to be putting out for the middle school, I’ve been thinking about elementary school more lately. My visits to the schools have only served to continue my feelings that elementary school English is going to be fun. I was at first intimidated by the idea that I would be responsible for creating the entire lesson plan myself, but after meeting the teachers and elementary school principals and other people involved, I feel more energized to really get my hands on it, and make it my own. There is a textbook for the 5th and 6th graders, around which I will be building things, but the lower grades will be free-form, and at this point, I really like that idea; before, I was much more attached to having a textbook or some kind of guideline as to what the curriculum goals should be. But, if it’s up to me, then I can’t possibly be stepping on anyone else’s toes, and I have no other inputs which I am forced to consider. Sweet!

I still need to sit down and talk seriously with my middle school English teachers about what their goals are. I know that a lot of factors go in to designing a course and materials and plans, so I want to know as much as I can about the teacher’s point of view and own goals for the students. I think this will go okay, because the two English teachers I’ve spent time with are both very kind and helpful. Other teachers have been talking with me, too. It’s usually kind of a group effort to communicate, and if an English teacher is around, so much the better. But from time to time, we manage it without them.

The principal at my school asked me today if I had eaten breakfast, then told me that it was important to do so each day, as part of being healthy. He then declared himself my Japanese father-figure. The vice-principal translated this for me so I could laugh and agree that it was so. Yesterday, the vice-principal asked me some questions about my one-page self-intro, about Vandy and other stuff I mentioned about teaching experience. After ascertaining that Latin is not spoken in any country (except the Vatican, and no I am not hoping to go live there), he asked, quite classically, why I would study such a language. I was not prepared to have to answer for my major over here as well as in the States, but I managed to pull together my usual response (helps with English, Romance languages, study of ancient cultures and history is super important, etc.)…

I don’t think he meant to suggest it was useless.. I think he really was curious. The day before, he’d told me I don’t have a strong American accent when I speak Japanese.. that I pronounce Japanese words like real Nihonjin do. I was totally flattered, even remembering the way that if you manage to spit out any version of “Arigatou,” Japanese people will praise your language skills to high heaven. He assured me he was being serious (I guess as opposed to those other times when people are just putting you on?), and I was kinda proud of myself, though, because I do have a pretty good aural memory, and I try really hard to imitate sounds properly.

I live in the Kansai region, which has a different dialect than Tokyo. I’m sure to the people around here, my Japanese must sound really weird. Sort of the way I feel when Japanese people speak to me with a British accent or something.. they’ve got an accent, just not the one I expect. It’s been explained to me that the Tokyo dialect sounds very “proper” and sometimes “too polite,” in small towns like this one. There are even some words that are particular to this small town itself. Although I can’t really identify when someone is speaking laid-back Kansai and when someone is speaking highbrow Tokyo, I have noticed that it’s easier for me to understand my English teacher’s Japanese speech on the first go round, as compared to some other teachers. I wonder if being well versed in English makes their Japanese more enunciated or something? Or, possibly, they’re speaking “Tokyo,” which I spent a couple years hearing in the classroom and in McTizzle. I feel really silly when I have to take a moment to understand what words have been said to me; even when they are words I know, it takes a little while to compute, so I get to stare blankly while my mind works.

I really like the staff at my school. They’re all very kind, or if they’re not, I certainly have yet to discover it. When I was up at Lee’s house before the conversation class, I was in deep admiration of his living space. He has a lot more rooms, and a much more amazing kitchen. I was not actively jealous, but I did feel little tendrils of envy… until I remembered that it’s a whole package deal. I get one certain niche.. in this case, this apartment, this junior high school, and this job therein. They are all tied together. Even my volunteer position is basically inherited. And I know that Lee’s experience with his one JTE (Japanese teacher of English) is not a shining example of friendship and easy communication. So I think, I like where I am, and have basically hit the professional jackpot, even if my apartment is not large and awesome.

And, because the teachers rotate to a new school every set number of years, really this situation is quite unique. Even my predecessor did not work with this particular staff for all that long. The vice principal, for example, arrived in the spring. My JTE supervisor wasn’t there last year either. Knowing details like that, it’s much easier to believe that everything happens for a reason, and is just as it should be.

1 comment: